The Snake Charmer Kids
I took 2 days out of my stay in Jaipur to visit our volunteer camp near Lalsot, a very rural part of India. From Jaipur it took about 3 hours in a car to get there, with the driver singing his heart out to Indian music the whole way. As we left Jaipur I noticed the road becoming bumpier, with less cars and more carts pulled my various animals, mainly horses and camels but you also see the occasional man travelling by elephant. The roads were soon surrounded by huge stretches of land on either side, and small huts choking out little streams of smoke in the distance. Even though the moonsoon season had just finished, there was very little green, everything began to look very dry and dirty.
We drove through Lalsot, which is the only town for miles around and you could tell the difference between the city and the country folk. In Jaipur, Agra and Goa, I saw many hints of westernisation in peoples clothes, shops, billboards etc. in Lalsot it is still very traditional with all the ladies wrapped in colorful safaris, many of the men wearing lunghis with bare bellies and no shops just market stalls.
When we’d wrestled our way through the town, we travelled for another ten minutes until we reached the camp. I was once again welcomed with a Bindi, and rather than flowers I had a colorful piece of string tied around my wrist. It was different to the Goa camp with the colour green being taken over by brown, but had some similarities. There was still a recreation room where we could watch TV and films, a dining room, internet (although rural India isn’t best known for it’s speedy connections!) and huts based on 2 person sharing, but because there was only 7 of us at the project we were all able to have out own huts.
The camp in Lalsot is like a big family. The volunteers and all the staff introduced themselves to me and we all sat around, drinking Chai and getting to know one another. I was told all about the different projects that the volunteers go to. In the morning they mainly go to the government school and teach English, and in the afternoon they teach at the Snake Charmers school. A very small community right opposite the camp belongs to snake charmers. They’re Nomads who travel all around the country earning money for their trade, but that is their base where the rest of their families live. The kids do not go to schools, the parents never went either, so basic manners, hygiene and education are non-existent. So there has been a little school set up, right outside the camp, where the kids can come every day for 2 hours to learn a little English, brush their teeth, wash their hair and given some basic manners, like not spitting on the floor! The kids seem to love the sessions, all of them fighting to get their hair washed first, and afterwards they play games. The volunteers also get to go into the snake charmer community and meet the families so they can see the kind of good they’re doing. It seems to work, as the same kids turn up to the lesson every day.
I really enjoyed the rural experience! Although I’m a city girl at heart, and kind of dreaded the idea of spending time in the middle of nowhere! It was a great experience, I loved getting to know a different side of India. And being involved, even if it was just for a few days, in the family atmosphere of the camp was well worth the trip.